I was interested in trying to bring people closer together through technology
With this in mind, artist Heidi Hinder, developed a concept called Money No Object as part of the Craft and Technology residencies at the Watershed, a cross-artform venue in Bristol.
The project focused on creating new ways of exchanging payment via physical gestures in an attempt to make technology a more interactive experience. It also served to promote physical contact with other humans in an age when the digital is replacing the tangible.
Hinder explains, “I was interested in trying to bring people closer together through technology and how that might be possible given that people are often quite isolated and absorbed by it, so I used technology as a mediation to bring back human to human interaction.”
Using RFID tags and readers, Hinder created four different physical gestures that could act as payment including hugging. In this scenario the customer and server wear an RFID tag and reader respectively on their tops and money is exchanged when these come into contact – the easiest way for this to happen is by hugging.
Hinder says, “I’m in the prototype stage at the moment and we have looked at four gestures: the hug, the handshake, tap dance (pun on tap and pay) and the high five – at each point of contact the money would be transferred.”
Where Hinder initially sees this taking place is within the context of donation at museums and galleries. She says, “It’s a way of refashioning the clear plastic donations box that usually only has a few lonely notes in it.”
While the concept is certainly a bit whacky – I can’t imagine myself walking into the newsagent, picking up a pint of milk before hugging the owner – it is a humorous reminder of how disengaged we are becoming in the modern world.
Hinder says, “I showcased the work at a symposium recently and somebody came up to me afterwards and said, ‘it really struck me because just this afternoon I bought something in a shop and realised I hadn’t even made eye contact with the vendor’, and I think that is the essence of what I’m trying to reintroduce, if you like, that acknowledgement of the other person.”
It is incredibly awkward to go up and hug a stranger
On the flip side, some people may feel very uncomfortable being forced to be so familiar with a stranger. Hinder says, “As British people, it is incredibly awkward to go up and hug a stranger and a lot of people were saying they wouldn’t want to do that, but that is part of it. Money is an awkward subject, it’s very divisive in certain circumstances and therefore I kind of want people to think about that through the exploration of the project itself.”
The three-month residency at Watershed has come to a close and Hinder is currently in talks with possible investors to try and get this concept adopted by cultural institutions in London as a way of donating money.
I’ll level with you, while I could just about hug, shake hands or high-five to exchange money, I draw the line at tap dancing – I think I would have to forego my pint of milk if that was the only way of buying it!